Amadeus’ leadership recipe for talent management success

How a focus on leadership has helped Amadeus with talent management

Global travel technology business Amadeus has taken a holistic approach to competing for the best technology talent on the market, with a focus on organisational culture, development opportunities and improving leadership capability and effectiveness, according to the business’ head of HR.

As a technology business, Pablo Alonso, Amadeus’ Asia Pacific HR director, said the company is always competing with much larger global players for top talent and the business’ leadership plays a key role in this process.

There is also an increased need to ensure Australian talent is well equipped with key STEM skills and capabilities to address current and future technology and innovation requirements, he added.

“Amadeus’ HR team has identified that in order to become more competitive during the job search phase, we need to continually evolve our approach when engaging with the market,” he said.

Amadeus runs hackathons to identify new ideas and talent, provides internships for young people to gain experience with the business and also sponsors an award with the University of NSW for Computer science students.

“We’ve also updated our language to be less focused on business lingo and more conversational, making the requirements of the job easier to understand and giving more of an insight into our organisational culture,” said Alonso.

Amadeus has used an online tool (textio.com) to analyse whether the language used in advertisements and job descriptions is gender-neutral in order to limit the chance of suitable female applicants subconsciously opting out of the application stage, due to masculine focused words and phrases.

“This supports our broader mission of promoting gender diversity in STEM occupations,” said Alonso.

“We need to continually evolve our approach when engaging with the market”

In a competitive environment and increasingly globalised workforce, Alonso said a focus on developing effective leadership is also critical for Amadeus, which employs some 370 employees in Australia and New Zealand (25 per cent of which are committed to research and development) and more than 10,000 globally.

To ensure consistency across all areas of the business, Amadeus has developed a career stages model and a competency model, both of which establish appropriate requirements for leadership levels and which help facilitate succession planning, leadership development and a more robust selection process.

“By aligning our strategic priorities with the capabilities needed within the organisation, we have developed a strong leadership pipeline, helping secure the continued growth and success of our business,” he said.

Amadeus’ promotion process also assesses the quality of leadership capabilities using transparent, objective and fair methods, and provides successful applicants with feedback and support on further development areas.

The promotion cycle runs twice per year for employees who have been promoted due to internal recruitment/succession, or based on exceptional performance.

Applicants also participate in a development centre, to assess their competency level (using Amadeus’ competency model), and this involves group activities, role plays, interviews and presentations.

Feedback via a 360 degree survey and analysis of previous performance is also used in assessing each applicant’s suitability for promotion.

“This rigorous process ensures our managers are ready and equipped to deal with the challenges that come with such an important career step,” said Alonso.

Amadeus’ talent development initiatives have also enabled the critical upskilling of staff and we’ve been able to fill 50 per cent of vacancies through internal promotion.

“We have developed a strong leadership pipeline, helping secure the continued growth and success of our business”

Alonso also explained that Amadeus’ Pacific HR team proactively collaborates and partners with the business’ leadership to support best practice people strategies aligned with business objectives.

“They play an active role in delivering strategies at a local and regional level, providing dedicated support through centres of excellence across the key HR functions,” he said.

An example of this is the “leadership link ups” initiative, which provides an opportunity for managers to spend time sharing challenges, celebrating wins, and focusing on best practice, while also offering the chance to learn from peers, mentor fellow managers, and gain insight into new ideas and perspectives.

HR facilitates the link ups quarterly, with each session focusing on a different topic, such as engagement or onboarding.

Leaders are also encouraged to take part in active discussion and contribute ideas towards improving and developing the topics within the business, and as a result, Alonso said leadership interest and involvement in these areas have increased, with topics becoming part of the ongoing conversations with their teams.

“Further, we continuously focus on proactively preparing the company for future growth,” he said.

“In order to support the business through change, and to promote and support the evolution of our business, HR implemented a bespoke ‘leading through change’ program for managers.”

The program aims to assist managers lead their teams and provide support to employees through times of change, and grow a culture of adaptability, flexibility and open-mindedness.

Alonso said the program will also be rolled out to all employees, equipping them with cognitive tools to challenge their way of thinking when facing change, and empower them to view change as an opportunity, rather than a time of uncertainty.

“We continuously focus on proactively preparing the company for future growth”

Innovation is also an important focus for Amadeus, and Alonso said the aim for the business is to integrate innovation into the ‘everyday experience’ of an Amadeus employee.

An example of this is the “new inventors” policy, which recognises and rewards innovative employees for the creation of new intellectual property ideas and generating product and solutions.

This is an international initiative, and a number of Australian-based staff have been rewarded for their contributions.

“Our long-term commitment to innovation has given us a strong position to respond to the changes in technology,” he said.

“We are continuing to research best practice cloud-based architecture, and are frequently increasing our robust system in security and stability.”

Amadeus also has a gamification tool with a HR focus, which was developed to help upskill people in giving and receiving feedback in a culturally aware way.

Another program is “Amadeus Next” in which the business mentors, nurtures and partner with travel start-ups in Asia Pacific to help them scale into bigger companies.

Through Amadeus Next, more than 30 travel technology start-ups, including Australian companies such as Seatfrog, Dreamz AI and PredictHQ.

“This has also helped Amadeus staff look beyond the travel sector to explore other verticals such as fintech, insurtech and IoT, so that we can discover emerging technologies and trends before they reach us,” he said.

For more on improving your talent management strategy, see Marc Effron’s Top 5 talent management trends of 2018.

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